The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too dense

Mattsour's picture

Too dense

Hi all.

I'm new to making bread. I've been given a starter culture, and have baked 5 loaves of sourdough, but I need some help with my no kneed bread (the thing that appeals is it's easy and doesn't require kneeding)

All in all it's quite good though, as it's nicely moist. I'm probably being fussy, but it seems too dense, and I'd like it slightly "fluffier, or lighter, or holier".

My recepie is, (approximately as I'm still trying to get it right):

1.5 tblspn pink hymo salt, 4 cups standard white flour, 2.25 cups water (cold after being boiled), 1 cup of starter culture that's been fed and is active.

Method is: I mix it gently, let it prove which it does beautifully, and bake it on pre heated 220° for 1hr, 10 mins (oven is gas fan forced and temp maybe inaccurate, so I'm playing with it, but 230° seems too hot and is close to burning the crust).

I wonder if it's as simple as not pre heating my oven, allowing it to rise more before temp knocks the growth out of it? Seems logical as a bit more of a rise would get the job done?

I'm keen to get the basics right before I start inserting seeds and the rest, so any tips on my issue would be appreciated.

Thanks so much,



BobBoule's picture

It looks good to me. Well done!

There is a lot of variety in how we all make our loaves so there is no one "right way".

What I suggest is that you get a scale and weigh everything precisely. That will give you a lot greater consistency and it will help us suggest someone tuning.

Also get an oven thermometer, if you don't know the precise temperature of your oven then you canlt make precise adjustments to achieve your results (and you won't get consistent results).

As it stands I would suggest preheating your oven and increasing the water slightly (going to a higher hydration percentage) and see what that does for you.

Here are some starter suggestions for you:

Good Luck!Cooper-Atkins 24HP-01-1 Stainless Steel Bi-Metal Oven Thermometer,Cooper

AmazonBasics Stainless Steel Digital Kitchen Scale with LCD Display

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Is it?   From my calculations roughly,  

  • 4 cups flour equals 125g x 4 or 500g flour.  
  • 240g x 2.25 cups water equals 540g water (See where this is going? There is more water than flour.)
  • which when plugged into the hydration formula (water weight divided by flour weight x 100 to get %)
  • gives 108% hydration.  Almost a batter.  

Nothing wrong with that if the dough can trap gas and expand without loosing gas but could explain a dense crumb if you have one. Gas bubbles will be popping on top of the loaf as ferments and later as it bakes.  Depends on your flours and other ingredients if that high hydration will work.  

So,  I would suggest reducing the water amount to the hydration range of the flour to use.  If an AP flour, drop it down to 60% to 65% for starting out.  300g to 350g Water or 1.25 cups to 1.5 cups. You can add more water as skills improve but it's a good place to start.  

If you insist on no kneading, then I suggest you mix up the dough and chill it overnight so the flour can hydrate well and gluten can develop with little kneading.  The next day, take part or all of it out and give it some folds and let it rise at warm room temps to bulk rise.

OldLoaf's picture

I've never used "pink hymo salt" so I don't have a base weigh to go off of, but if you plug in the numbers for kosher salt it comes out to 5.4%

  • 1.5 Tbs kosher salt = 27g
  • 27g salt / 500g flour = 5.4% salt


Mattsour's picture

Thanks so much all of you. I agree, I think I need to reduce water content as a first step, and then also kneed it a little.

You are all so precise, and maybe that's how I need to be regarding this, but like I say, I'm new to this.

I'll report back trying to drop water content to 65%approx as my dough is a bit batter-ish


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

it comes from lack of "smell-o-vision" and dealing with volume measurements.  

I love to just stand in the kitchen in front of a big beautiful bowl and throw something together, let the moment inspire me....but then it is hard to describe what I did and hard for others to repeat or help out if the loaf flops.  

Putting up the recipe is brave on your part and clever, no waste. Or at least less waste.  65% can be low for a whole flour but you can add one table spoon water at a time, working it in until it feels like, um, feels like um, your relaxed biceps 💪.   Lol  

Mattsour's picture

Mini oven,

I've had to re read your original reply a few to understand it. I really think your onto my issue with the gas bubbles. My loaves have had a few sort of crater marks in the crust. As if something has had to escape from within and popped.

If that is the case, any tips on how to keep them in so it rises more?

Ohh, and I don't insist on no kneed, I just want to make a bread that I will keep making, and if it becomes to much hassle I may cease to continue. Looking for a happy medium I suppose. Thanks again

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

letting the gluten develop won't happen over time without doing anything, it actually increases but at the same time breaks down.  Learn something new every day. What about using a machine to knead?

Dont get too tangled in the details just notice that even at 100% hydration (equal weights flour and water) dough development can happen and with little effort and quickly in a food processor.  :). Check your instructions for the max amount of flour, most likely in a pizza dough recipe.  See what you can do.  

I'm not thrilled about more to clean up than a bowl and a spoon myself.  I save the garlic and onion nets from the supermarket to clean up most of my dough messes with cold water.  Can't be too much to clean up.  And think of the fun you'll have!


wheatbeat's picture

Keep in mind that when a recipe calls for 2% salt, it assumes more or less pure NaCl. Himalayan salt has a lot more minerals in it which means gram for gram, it contains less NaCl than table salt. More minerals in the salt speeds up yeast activity.

Bottom line, when using Himalayan salt, you should add a little more than 2% (maybe 2.5%) and you should cut back a little yeast to compensate for higher yeast activity.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:(     2% of 500g flour is 10g.  Taste the dough after salt has been dissolved and mixed thoroughly.  I find 2% too salty and use less.  

From my reading, pink Himalayan salt actually may be more concentrated in salt than table salt as table salt contains anti-clumping agents.  We are talking about 98% sodium chloride found in both.  So the mineral content is only 2% of  2%.   If 10g is 2% of 500g of flour, 2% of that 10g is 0.2g or one fifth of a gram.  To put that into reality, a teaspoon of fine granulated table salt weighs 5g  the mineral content would be 1/25 of that teaspoon.  I think a pinch of salt weighs more and the difference is not enough to warrant upping to 2.5% salt, a weight difference of 2.5 grams instead of 0.2g  or half a teaspoon of table salt to make up for a pinch.  

wheatbeat's picture

It might be ok to reduce the salt in your dough, but you need to be careful, because salt reduces yeast activity and promotes gluten development. Most all bread recipes call for 2% and you need to make appropriate adjustments if you are deviating from that standard (beyond just putting in less salt) if you want to get a predictable result.

albacore's picture

I use 1.7% salt now and I would be surprised if there is any noticeable variation in salt effect on dough at 1.7% (or even 1.5%) compared to 2%.

For those that haven't read it yet, the Weekend Bakery salt article is a must read for all bakers, though 1.5% is currently a step too far for me.

BTW, pink Himalayan salt appears to be 96% sodium chloride, so looks like it can replace "ordinary" salt weight for weight - or add 4% to the salt weight to be technically correct.


mwilson's picture

Joining the salt debate. I'm actually leaning towards increased levels. I find 2.2% to be my preferred dose and indeed some salts are saltier than others...

I think the salt "guilt" is a bit unfounded and personally I am naturally dispositioned to steer clear of imposed regulations.

But in any case it is indeed a matter of taste. Having spent the last two months in Italy I can tell you they like their salt. This makes sense as you tend to find, in warmer climates foods are a bit saltier and this can be contributed to the increased salt loss through perspiration.

Here in the UK I enjoy steamed vegetables, especially broccoli and so while in Italy I relished in a plateful of bright green broccoli but for me it was clearly boiled and just too salty to enjoy for my taste...

In summary it really is up to the consumer to decide if the salt dosage is appropriate...

albacore's picture

An interesting point of view, Michael; I think many of us are striving to reduce our salt intake given the generally accepted wisdom linking high salt intake with hypertension.

This is an interesting article discussing salt intake from bread. Apparently the current levels of salt in bread only date back to the 20th century and industrialisation of the process. Prior to that they were perhaps half what they are now.

And in The Netherlands:

"In 2014, the Netherlands released their Agreement on Product Improvement which aims to improve the nation’s health by reducing salt, sugar and fat in a range of products.  The agreement has been signed by the Federation of the Dutch Food Industry, the Dutch Food Retail Organisation, the Ministry of Health and catering associations, and is monitored by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.

The agreement states that the salt content of a range of products will be reduced so that it is easier for consumers to achieve a daily salt intake of 6g or less per day. Agreements have already been reached for bread, preserved vegetables, meats and gouda cheese."

Sensible reductions or meddling? - you choose!


mwilson's picture

I mentioned the food but carelessly I didn't mention the bread! So while the food was generally very well seasoned with salt the bread was actually the opposite. Often the table bread served could well have been made without salt at all!

I stayed in the north of Lazio and visited nearby Umbria and Toscana.

Back home in the UK I cook most days and I think to myself there is no way my salt intake can be within the guidelines... 

I think on the continent good food and wine is the remedy to hypertension, especially red wine and its artery relaxing compounds like resveratrol.

As my Italian friend said to me, the frequent eating and drinking we were indulging in was "suffering" and that is what life is for!



PS. Still moderation is a good thing!

albacore's picture

I went to Rome last year with my daughter and we went for a restaurant meal. I've noticed that when you are in countries like France and Italy you can go to the markets and see absolutely beautiful vegetables, but when you eat out you never get any!

So with our meal, we ordered a side portion of cauliflower. When it came it was was one of of those Romanesco pointy ones (which is fine), but it was boiled to an absolute watery mush and was nearly inedible! At least it wasn't oversalted - in fact it had no salt at all.


mwilson's picture

Indeed the broccoli I had was well boiled and mushy, but salty too.

I think us Brits are ahead of the curve when it comes to enjoying vegetables...

Boiled veg reminds me of my nan and what I call "war-time" cooking aka boiled to death veggies! 😁

Anne Ng's picture
Anne Ng

I've never thought about that pink salt is different from table salt!

I used to make bread with pink salt, and since it's in a grinder bottle I just add it my feel. My bread was super slow in proofing. I thought it was because I just started trying sourdough and the starter may not be active enough or I must have messed up something so it doesn't grow. It might be salt! But the finished bread doesn't taste too salty, actually they are nice, except I wish they were softer and lighter. 

I've switched to table salt because it's easier to measure, and my bread are getting better. I think the salt may have something to do with it! I was thinking of going back to pink salt but I'm not gonna do that now! 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but once it's in food, it's hard to remove it.

Vegetables are better ordered under the "salad" banner in Europe.  Salad includes more than just lettuce. Although I have to admit, I did teach my immediate family how to just cook veggies without overdoing them or turning them into salads.  They in return taught me some of the "extras" like steamed cauliflower rolled in or topped with a generous portion of butter roasted bread crumbs.  Hot cabbage salad that isn't over cooked and how to sauté mushrooms, onions, and root veggies to their best which is also one of the reasons for heading into an Asian kitchen.